“Not my strength, but yours.”
“Not my will, but yours.”
As a believer, I know the truth behind these words, at least I thought I did. I know that I can do all things through him who strengthens me (God). I know that every good and perfect gift is from above. I know that the God of this universe is capable of holding oceans in his hands, and controlling all circumstances past, present, and future to bring about his ultimate glory, his plan… something greater than we can even imagine.
So then, why do I make my walk with him about me?
Why, when things get hard, do I feel as though I’m not doing enough, that I don’t measure up, or that somehow, I’ve fallen short (though many many times I do 😉 )?
Lately, this has been a cycle I’ve found myself in. I get tired. I get cranky. I get tired of waiting for tomorrow to be different when the different I crave may be months away…if it comes at all. I get frustrated. Then, I spiral into full anger.
Emotions like that are hard to admit out loud if I’m honest.
Lately though, God has been speaking to my heart through the words of people much smarter than me, and – most importantly – through his holy word. If this seems foreign to you, I’d encourage you to dive into his word and to ask him to come close to your heart… guys, I promise, he’ll show up. But, that’s a point for another time.
The thing I’ve been learning is that those phrases I listed at the start of this post? They. Hold. Up.
Honestly, they’re truer than maybe we’ve even taken the time to contemplate.
We know we’re saved by grace, through faith. And yet, I think we lean more on that faith, turning it into a cycle of works-based evaluations of where we stand than we might want to admit.
We feel frustrated by things we can’t control, thing we don’t understand. We yell. We feel as though we failed to show God’s love, we slide into guilt. Just me? Maybe… but I don’t think so.
We worry about health, finances, global unrest, and the million other things that this world and our own circumstances tell us we should worry about… and we dwell in that place where anxiety rules supreme (not talking medically diagnosed anxiety here…talking about that edge many of us are experiencing like never before these days.) We feel as though we don’t trust enough and then we tell ourselves somehow we’ve let him down… again.
Something in life doesn’t go according to plan, either our plan, or the plan we think God has for us. We get frustrated. We feel as though we failed along the way. We cry out for answers when maybe we aren’t entitled to them in the first place.
Not My Strength
Which brings us back here. We live in a world where we are told every minute of every day that we’re empowered to do more. If we reach harder, hustle more, or just focus inward, we can accomplish any dream we feel like chasing.
True? Maybe for some. But, when God’s word tells us that our strength comes from the Lord, I think we ought to pay attention. In fact, maybe our current life situations are pointing us to this truth like never before.
Which means… (and this is hard)… that it’s not actually about us at all.
Since we’ve been small, if we’ve grown up in church, we’ve been told that it’s up to us to invite God into our hearts. We’re supposed to lean into him at all times.
This is true.
But we’re missing the other half.
Guys… he’s pursuing us to… and has been since the beginning of time.
My home church emphasized this in church a few weeks ago and I couldn’t shake the thought. I started reading David Platt’s “Follow Me,” which came to the same conclusion. I heard a radio conversation between two of my favorite co-hosts about the same thing.
Say what you want about how God speaks to your heart, but in my life, when a theme keeps showing up, a theme that I cannot stop thinking about and digging into, it feels as though there’s a point I ought to focus on.
I like plans. I like order. I despise the unknown. But… all of these statements that define me start with “I.”
As a follower of Christ, they should start with him. So… I rephrase them and look at how they change.
Because Christ pursues me and loves me with a love that is – quite literally – out-worldly, if I trust in him, then:
He has a plan, whether it aligns with mine or not. He has order and purpose behind every happening during every second of every day for every place in this universe. With him nothing is unknown.
When I read those, I can’t help but change the way I see things. I can’t help but better understand the fact that my strength and my will mean very little in the grand scheme of things. Better yet, I can’t help but start to see the grace mentioned earlier.
Is faith a critical part of the equation? Yes. But if it’s all about our faith, all about us, it’s hard to see the grace stemming from a God who sent his son to this Earth to walk with us, take on our sins, and suffer for us – for each of us. Without that grace, our faith would be fruitless. They have to go hand in hand… we have to let go of the “I’s” and “we’s” and “us’s” that leave us in a permanent state of “less than,” “not good enough,” and “never measuring up.”
Do you see it?
What Do We Do About It?
If we are to live in his strength and abide in his love, does it mean we stop trying at all to follow his lead? (“Shall we go on sinning…?”) Absolutely not.
But, when we’re stuck in the “I” cycle, we need to rethink the “I’s,” replacing them with “He” and “His.”
Try what I did earlier.
Write down the frustrations on your heart. I’m betting you’ll see themes similar to what I saw crop up.
Rewrite them based on scriptural truth.
If that feels too far away, just cry out to him. Pray that he would draw near to you as he promises to do, and that he’d align your heart and your will with his. Dive into his word. Look for things that pop out at you, that he may be speaking to your heart today.
He’s there. He won’t leave. He’s got this. He promises it time and time again. Best of all… He. Never. Fails.
For it is by grace that we have been saved…through faith. What hope we have! What truth to hold on to! What do you need to hang on to today?